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Advice for December Graduates

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December is a wonderful time of year in D.C. The city is adorned in festive lighting, traffic is beginning to ease and most of the region's students are preparing for a holiday break free from classes and anxiety. However, for those college students graduating this month, and gearing up to find employment, this season can be the most stressful time of year.

This is a unique time for job seekers in our community. Like much of the nation, D.C. has experienced a healthy economic rebound. And, while our community continues to feel the ripple effects of the sequester and the federal government shutdown, the D.C. metro area offers new graduates an extraordinary number and variety of opportunities for employment, so long as they follow a few useful strategies and know where to look.

For those beginning a job search this season, I have a few recommendations. First, use alumni to advance your efforts. Whether you went to school in D.C., or have arrived following studies elsewhere, you can bet that your new alma mater has a uniquely strong network of graduates in the D.C. region. Put that network to use by seeking informational interviews and connections to others. I receive one such request each month or two, and I am always happy to talk to those who take the time to prepare an articulate request.

Second, consider casting a wide net across the private sector. While hiring within the federal government has slowed, there are lots of other options for those who hunt for them. With a disproportionately high percentage of the nation's fastest-growing companies, D.C. is buzzing with growing small businesses. These entities offer lots of interesting and challenging jobs that can deliver both a compressed learning opportunity, and the ability to have an impact. A great place to start the search is with one of the many thriving startup incubators and accelerators that have sprouted up across the region. These organizations host groups of new businesses in pursuit of funding -- much of which will be used to hire hard-working staff.

Finally, for those with a heightened appetite for risk, an interest in carving their own path and a well-crafted plan for a new business, there has never been a better time to pursue entrepreneurship. D.C. offers a surprisingly robust array of resources to support entrepreneurs, including a large array of seasoned startup mentors, educational resources and financing.

I cannot say with a straight face that there has never been a better time to be a graduate in D.C. But there are certainly plenty of opportunities for those who are eager to get to work and willing to be creative.